So Why Not Lie?
I end with three reasons to tell the truth. The majority has to tell the truth — to the IRS, to the police, to the DA, to the census — if a consensual society is to work. You readers tell the truth so that the society can survive an Eric Holder or Mike Barnicle. Average people must speak honestly or our elites’ lies will overwhelm, even destroy us. If 100 million tell the IRS lies during audits or take the 5th Amendment, our voluntary tax system collapses. We can take only so many Lois Lerners.
Two, this often sordid, sometimes beautiful world is not the end. There is transcendence. Lies damage our soul. Selling out in the here and now has consequences later on. If you are religious, your immortal soul is lost. If you are not, at least consider that your legacy, heritage, and remembrance are forever ruined. Ask the ghost of Stephen Ambrose. What good was all that money, all those interviews if based on a lie? All the insight and delight that he brought millions of readers was tarnished. And for what, exactly?
Third, we must strive to be tragic heroes, perhaps not as dramatic as Ajax, not as cool as Shane. Would you rather have been Ethan Edwards or Will Kane or have run Lehman Brothers in 2008? Sometimes, in less dramatic fashion, the choices are that Manichean.
We must try to tell the truth, not to doctor films, edit tapes, erase talking points, or lie before Congress, fabricate heroic war records, or invent false sources. Again, why? Because we seek to do the right thing with the full resignation that in the here and now we will often still lose and will lose often and gladly telling the truth.
“We always lose,” says Chris at the end of the The Magnificent Seven after he did the right thing. Or to paraphrase the cinematic T.E. Lawrence about Auda Abu Tayi, we will not lie, as do our elites, because it is simply “our pleasure” not to.